This is Departed’s second gig since their return. They’ve been away for four years, and singer Mark Pascall (formerly of Cats In Space) mentions more than once how good it is to be back.
They’ve been missed, too. When I reviewed their debut EP in 2016, I concluded that they were “one of the finest new bands in Britain.” Here, with a 40-minute slot on the big stage, they set out to prove it, performing a set mainly drawn from those two EPs.
They were always, in the best sense, nothing more than classy, classic rock. Songs like ‘Superstitious,’ ‘All The Way,’ and ‘Don’t Follow Me,’ the trio with which they kicked off the show, underline just that.
But this is more than just dusting off the cobwebs. It’s a band re-introducing themselves and doing so wonderfully. ‘Soul Shaker,’ with its “stand up for what you believe” hook, seems to be the centerpiece of the set, but amidst all the classics, there are a couple of surprises: ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ (one of the few Queen songs I can tolerate) and a new one. The latter gives you every reason to be excited about the future, but so do the ones from the past, like ‘Are You Ready?’ and the set closer, ‘Steal Your Crown,’ which guitarist Ben Brookland, formerly of The Treatment, seemed to enjoy.
It’s fantastic to have Departed back from wherever they departed to, but it’s even better to see them in such great form.
I have this theory, and I won’t be swayed from it: If something feels dated now, it was probably not that great even back then.
Take ‘Money,’ for example. Skin, in a mirror image of their first album, opens with it here. In its second verse, it says: “Who takes the blame for this poverty? While children are dying, they’re feeding their greed.”
The song was released in 1994, but it could have been written this morning. That’s what makes it timeless.
Myke Gray’s Skin, as we must call them (although he himself points out that others deserve much more credit), are playing three shows to celebrate their past, and they were a big deal back then.
Their debut album crashed into the top 10 of the charts, and they were a fabulous live band. I first saw them 29 years ago.
To be honest, it’s been a few years since I’ve listened to them, but for an hour and 40 minutes here, they basically deliver one hit after another.
It’s amazing how many of these songs you still remember. ‘Spit On You,’ an arena-ready ‘House Of Love,’ and the sublime ‘Raised On Radio’ are all tucked away somewhere in the subconscious.
Dan Byrne, the singer (he has a superb voice and was also in the excellent Revival Black), believes that many of these songs hold a special place in people’s hearts. One that he picks out, ‘Stronger,’ with its country flavor, truly deserves the accolade. However, his voice makes ‘Which Are The Tears’ something truly special.
The rest of the set is brilliantly paced. ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ blends seamlessly with ‘Colourblind’ and ‘Down By The River,’ but there’s also a surprise: ‘Don’t Give Up On Life,’ a song they’ve never played before.
If the same cannot be said for ‘Tower Of Strength’ and ‘Shine Your Light,’ they are welcomed back like old friends.
As they return for the encore, Gray gives an emotional introduction to each member of the band and crew. It’s evident that this is now a real group of friends. The encore itself is lengthy, including a tear-jerking ‘Wings Of An Angel’ as a massive power ballad, and eventually concluding with ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Unbelievable,’ which fit the vibe perfectly.
After all, it’s hard to see how this first night could have gone any better. In simple terms, it was a celebration of some wonderful songs, but more importantly, it felt like being among old friends. And they sounded just as good as ever.